A GROWING CONCERN: Roses require lots of work for lots of payoff


Violets are blue,

A rose by any other name,

Is still labor-intensive to you!”

OK, maybe I have mixed my metaphors but one thing I am sure of: I know my roses and they sure do require (demand) your attention and care if you want beautiful blooming, glossy, green, prolific plants.

In fact, rose care is my longest-performed garden chore.

The greenhouse I was born at in Green Bay, Wis., (Go Pack GO!) grew 3,500 blooming cut flower roses (both grandaflora and florabunda) in a single 10,000-square-foot glass greenhouse range.

Roses, like dairy cows, need to be tended twice a day if you want to maximize the longevity of your cut flowers.

Flowers opening in the morning are past perfect, cut flower development come that evening and roses that are perfect this afternoon are past peak the next morning.

The trick is simple, and taught to me at the very young age of 6: When the first petal unfurls, opening off to one side, the time to cut is perfect.

So step one in rose care, if you are harvesting cut flowers, is to cut at the optimum stage: First petal to unfold.

The next concern is dis-budding. If you want gorgeous, florist-quality roses then you must dis-bud.

This dis-bud is to remove all the flower buds except the ones you want to bloom.

In the case of grandafloras, which are those perfect, large, single flower roses, you must remove all of the stem (and all the way down the flower stalk).

Especially important are the first leaves to either side of the main large center bud.

Dis-budding enlarges by 50 percent the center flower and increases the stem stiffness so the remaining flower sits erect and pointing straight upward.

In the case of florabundas, multi budded or cluster roses, to dis-bud you remove the very center bud, thus all the remaining buds get larger and develop together blooming at the same time.

I have a personal axiom: You have to spend flowers to make flowers. Both dis-budding and cutting off the flower stalks prove the point.

One of the biggest mistakes rose growers make is to remove the blooming stalk incorrectly.

Regardless, if you harvest for cut flowers or leave on the plant for outside beauty, you must cut down the flower stem very low.

Low as in 14 inches to 20 inches off the ground.

Yes, 14 inches to 20 inches off the ground and if that cuts away flower buds — tough — you didn’t dis-bud correctly.

A tall, huge plant is an ugly disease-ridden plant.

Always prune off at the node facing outward.

Roses should be pruned in a vasular (vase like) form with an open center.

Air flow is crucial to roses so an open center is of utmost importance.

Next is plant care.

At age 4, the greenhouse had me weekly de-suckering and leaf stripping the roses.

Roses need plenty of water and nutrients so keep all plants and weeds away from the roses so as not to compete for the water and nutrients.

Also weeds harbor disease and insects and your roses seem to spontaneously produce these problems so weeds do not provide for ideal breeding conditions.

Next, roses get black spot, mold and mildew and these pests enter an old, dead or dying foliage so as soon as you detect poor, yellowing spotted leaves remove them from the plant.

Also, do not over head water your plants because water flowing over the leaves spread disease.

Always remove all old leaves and debris from the ground around the roses because this is where the infection of disease moves back up the plant.

Roses are also nutrient gluten, so feed them every two months with a specific rose fertilizer.

There you go, a list of rose work paid off in an abundance of bloom through November (and beyond) and what “honey bunny” doesn’t want a beautiful hand-cut rose?


Andrew May is an ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email [email protected] (subject line: Andrew May).

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